Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

LITERARY    LIFE                        259

sole heir of all great families in China, doted on by his grand-
mother, the highest authority of the household, but extremely
afraid of his father, completely admired by all his female
cousins and catered for by his maid-servants, who attended to
his bath and sat in watch over him at night; his love for Taiyu,
his orphan cousin staying in their house, who was suffering from
consumption and was fed on birds'-nest soup, easily outshining
the rest in beauty and poetry, but a little too clever to be happy
like the more stupid ones, opening her love to Paoyii with the
purity and intensity of a young maiden's heart; another female
cousin, Paots'a, also in love with Paoyii, but plumper and more
practical-minded and considered a better wife by the elders;
the final deception, arrangements for the wedding to Paots'a
by the mothers without Paoyti's or Taiyu's knowledge, Taiyli
not hearing of it until shortly before the wedding, which made
her laugh hysterically and sent her to her death, and Paoyti
not hearing of it till the wedding night; Paoyii's discovery of
the deception by his own parents, his becoming half-idiotic
and losing his mind, and finally his becoming a monk.

All of this is depicted against the rise and fall of a great
family, the crescendo of piling family misfortunes extending
over the last third of the story, taking one's breath away like
the Fall of the House of Usher. Its heyday of pleasure was
passed; bankruptcy hung in the air; instead of a wine-feast
under the mid-autumn moon, we hear ghosts wailing in the
silent courtyard; the beautiful girls grew up and married off
into different homes with different luck; Paoyii's personal
maid-servants were sent away and married, and the most
devoted one, Ch'ingwen, died chaste and true. The phantas-
magoria vanished.

If, as some Chinese critics say, the Red Chamber Dream could
ruin a country, it should have ruined China long ago. Taiyti
and Paots'a have become the nation's sweethearts, and a num-
ber of other types are there, too: the impetuous Ch'ingwen, the
feminine Hsijen, the romantic Hsiangytin, the womanly
T'anch'un, the garrulous Fengchieh, the talented Miaoyti,
all there for one to settle one's choice upon, each representing a
different type. The easiest way to find out a Chinaman's
temperament is to ask him whether he likes Taiyti more or